Art of Clay

Pottery maestro V K Jayan is on a mission to revive the traditional terracotta artworks by adding modern aesthetics into his works

author_img Steni Simon Published :  02nd June 2022 11:16 AM   |   Published :   |  02nd June 2022 11:16 AM

Terracotta has gained a special place among Malayalis when it comes to home decor, be it indoors or outdoors. The credit goes to the traditional potters who are helping keep the terracotta art form alive. V K Jayan, 57, a resident of Tripunithura, has been doing his bit to popularise the artform over the years by conducting various workshops in schools, colleges and other cultural platforms. 

Jayan was just a student when the gradual breakdown of the pottery tradition hit home when his father closed down his pottery unit. Jayan strove to reopen it and work towards popularising the art. “From my childhood, I was interested in pottery. Hence, soon after my school days, I did a diploma in ceramics from Central Village Pottery Institute at Belgaum in Karnataka after higher secondary education. I also received training from a pottery-making centre in Thiruvananthapuram,” shares the master potter.

His love for the art led Jayan to start Terra Crafts which brings out an impressive array of unique utility and decorative terracotta products. Terra Crafts has now secured a space of its own in Kerala’s aesthetic sensibility while breathing life into a dying tradition and revitalising a corroding community.

Jayan’s venture produces high quality handcrafted and utility items such as garden sculptures, vases, cutlery, name-boards, jewellery and even decorative products such as murals. Jayan says, “Each work takes two to five days to finish, depending on the amount of detailing that goes into it.” However, the most challenging thing he says is to procure clay for making these products. “The clay is procured from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu since it is unavailable in our state,” he says. 

As it is waterproof and environment-friendly, terracotta can be used for a variety of purposes. The material is fireproof and hence can be moulded into any shape. The most identifiable finishes are in orange and red colours. However, there are also artworks in pink, grey, and brown. 

The potter says, “All the terracotta products have a good number of takers, especially the planters and garden fountains which are the latest trend. Other products in demand are murals and sculptures.” Jayan has been experimenting while bringing out his collection — a series of mementoes. “These are eco-friendly and also different from the metal works sold in the markets,” says Jayan.

Jayan once travelled to New Delhi in 1994 to present a sculpture of Indira Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi. He says the politician much appreciated the work. Later on, Jayan went on to win the Kerala State Award in 2008 for his sculptures. He also won a special mention from the Kerala Kerala Lalithakala Akademi in 2016. Later, he received a special appreciation for his sculpture ‘The Meditation’ which was held in the expo held in Shanghai in 2010.  

Traditions with a twist
Jayan has around 15 employees working in his unit in Eroor. “All of them are my students and they have also been conducting workshops in schools and colleges. Though Terracotta as an art form has been dying a slow death, we have been able to continue to preserve it by bringing in some modern designs. My aim is to spread the art to future generations,” adds the potter.